2. Understanding Social Sustainability

The Basics Of Sustainability

1. Understanding sustainability begins by recognizing its two distinct sub-categories — material and social sustainability. Public social policy formulation will be a confusing process for Progressives and anyone else until that distinction is clearly understood. Note how each is distinctly based in the illustration below.


Material Sustainability

Social Sustainability

Quantity-Object Based Quality-Value Based
Material Environment —
 Natural Resources are valued as material assets.
Social Environment —
  Individuals are valued as social assets.
Sustained by:
•  Increasing Qty Available.     
•  Decreasing Usage,     
•  Reusing,     
•  Recycling, 
•  Re-purposing.
Sustained by:
•  A symbiotic relationship between individuals and their community. The community improves the quality of the individual’s capability …
… to participate effectively in the community, which increases their social value to their community.
•  Individuals then become “social assets” whose innate capabilities are to be nurtured and developed.


2. The durations of existence: 

Survival presents us with the immediate appreciation of life now and the threat of death within this day or the next.

Existence presents us with the necessity of assuring our survival over a period of time with death still being a constant reminder in our daily activities.

Maintenance presents us with the necessity of assuring our existence is maintained into an indefinite future. And this is the place where most people and their communities and societies exist — in an indefinite future.

Stability. As a society moves toward social sustainability it has begun the process of assuring it has a definite, peaceful, and stable future.

3. The duration of “sustaining” compared to survival, existence, and maintenance of a society: 

Sustain: To lengthen or extend in duration. This also implies a continuation of what exists already, which may not be sustainable.

Sustainable: Capable of being sustained in the long term.

Sustainability: The ability to sustain.

Social Sustainability: The ability of a society to be itself — sustaining indefinitely…, for 5 years, 50 years, 250 years, 500 years and more because of the intention for its existence and the design of its functions.

After the discovery of the sustaining values of the Homo sapiens species came about in an “Ah-ha” moment I realized I needed to spend some time thinking about them in much more detail. Over the months numerous simple details began to emerge.

Social sustainability, the second aspect of sustainability, is quality-value based. Because decision-making is always values-based, a Progressive agenda of social, political, and economic policies must be based on those enduring values that have sustained the Homo sapiens species for about a quarter-million years. These values have not only sustained our survival but have guided us to thrive and dominate the planet. This is the bedrock for building socially sustaining public, corporate, and private policy formulation.

4. The values of social sustainability:

Quality of Life — While LIFE is fundamental to survival and continued existence, it is the quality of life that makes life worth living and gives life meaning.

Growth — Our urge to improve our quality of life provides the motivation to explore and develop our innate potential. Our yearning to grow ensures that our innate potential becomes expressed and fulfilled, and collectively encourages an improving quality of life for everyone – social and cultural progress.

Equality — The motivation to improve our quality of life also comes about when we compare our quality of life with others, and we seek to equalize our life’s situation.

Equality is inherent in the value of life. We give equal value to each individual, and we would seek to provide opportunity that is more equitable to every individual to develop their innate potential, as we would our own. Symbiotically, each individual is seen as a “social asset” (page 25) whose contributions to society ensure that society becomes socially sustainable, and society’s contribution to the individual supports their growth to make that contribution.

5. The 7 Values that Sustain Families, Societies and Civilizations

The 7 Values that Sustain Families, Societies and Civilizations

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries
Without them humanity cannot survive.”
— Dalai Lama

6. Characteristics of these values:

Self-Evident — These four values are self-evident similarly as those stated in the famous sentence in the United States Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths (values) to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The proof of this becomes evident when people around the world are asked whether they would like to enjoy an improved quality of life, as they define it.

Universal — These values are also universal to all people of all races, cultures, ethnicity, nations, and genders. Ask anyone, whether they live in Bangladesh or Baltimore, Houston or Hanoi, or any other city if they would like to develop the innate potential they brought into life … to improve their quality of life with an equal ability as anyone else would or could. The answers are universally the same whether a poor person is asked or a multi-billionaire. Everyone I have talked to as a holistic life coach has chosen to improve the quality of their life, and grow into their potential.

Irreducible — The four primary values are the superordinate values of our species and are not subordinate to any other values. The pursuit of an improving quality of life, growth, and equality provide the foundation for human motivation, (page 35-37), as interpreted by the individual, and express themselves in a personal hierarchy of needs.

Organic / Innate / Timeless — Even though I cannot prove it, evidence seems to suggest that these four values are organic to our species and are perhaps embedded in our DNA from our earliest beginnings. They have motivated us, everyone, to yearn for the improvement of our quality of life materially and socially. We can safely predict that these same values will continue to motivate our species to enjoy an ever-improving quality of life, and to grow into our innate potential in future centuries and millennia.

As hypotheses, if we could embed those values for decision-making into the organizational structures of all organizations, then would the organizational structures of democratic societies become self-sustaining into the term of centuries and millennia? On another plane of thought, if these values became the timber for the political planks of Progressive candidate campaigns, would the public recognize these plans and the public social policies that would emanate from them as being citizen-friendly, and successfully support the election of Progressive candidates?

The beautiful aspect of these seven innate values is that they have provided for the sustainability of our species over millennia, and characterize our species as being human, humane. In other terms, the four primary values give us an integrated system of moral justice; and the three secondary values give us an integrated system of humane justice. The three secondary Value-Emotions give us the criteria to live our lives humanely in grace, to protect and nurture our self while we protect and nurture others.

The three secondary Value-Emotions are also innate to our species and exist in us as an impulse to do good. They are proof that people are innately good. For example, we want peace for others as much as we want peace for ourselves because we are wired with the values that make us human – humane.

The reason that we are so sensitive to issues of equality is that we have the innate capacity of empathy – to “feel,” or put our self in the place of another, and sense what that is like, whether that is in anguish or in joy. Feeling that, we want to act in compassion 4 – to reach out to the other and assist them in their plight.

Our motivation for equality is also stimulated when we compare our own life to that of others and see that the quality of their life is “better” or worse than our own. Our sense of inequality then rises within us to motivate us to seek equality.

We generalize empathy and compassion toward all of humanity with the term “Love” – the capacity to care for another person or all of humanity, as we would for our self.

What is comforting about these secondary Value-Emotions is that when we express them towards others, they validate us as being human, and humane. They draw a stark distinction between those who are incapable or refuse to be empathetic, compassionate, or caring toward others. Lacking empathy and failing to act compassionately are clearly distinguishing behaviors of those who are not human, but inhuman and inhumane.

7. Interpretations of the three Value-Emotions.

These three values can be interpreted and implemented in at least three ways: Either  + ,  - , or  ᴓ . Their interpretation can be expressed negatively and destructively in the form of seven deadly emotions: anger and aggression, greed, laziness, pride, lust, envy and hoarding (accumulating more than is needed for one’s life and circumstances). They are evidence of innate selfishness and self-centeredness. These negative emotions are degenerative, and diminish the effectiveness of the individual in their own life and are corrosive to their relationships with others. When they are emulated by organizational, corporate, or governmental cultures, they can have a cumulative, negative influence and effect upon communities and societies, and create social, political, and economic instability. Such a narrow, selfish, and self-centered consciousness is the motivating causes of social separation and social disintegration, the antithesis of social sustainability.

The inner motivating causes that initiate social stability and sustainability are three essential Value-Emotions, “Empathy,” “Compassion,” and “Love.” These three Value-Emotions lead us to be open with our self and with others, enabling us to improve our self-esteem and self-image; and encourage us to improve our relationships with others. They are not selfish, but generous, and allow us to see our own life in the lives of others, and then in compassion reach out to help others grow! That is the humane interpretation and expression of the quality of life, growth, and equality applied individual-to-individual through emotional integrity. Their constructive interpretation leads to the positive development of our inner personality structures; and, contribute positively to our functioning in our family, community, and society. They complete the holism of the Raphael Unified Theory of Human Motivation, 5 (pages 35-37).

When they are expressed authentically and genuinely within us, they become the essential connective-energy that empowers our inner potential to blossom throughout the full development of our life from childhood through our elder years. These three Value-Emotions not only allow but prompt us to consider others as equals of ourselves, the truest definition of the core value “equality.” We see this clearly in the “golden rule,” a multi-cultural moral truism; and, we see it in actions of “pay it forward.”

Empathy, compassion, and “Love” are self-sustaining Value-Emotions because they allow us be more open and engaging within our self and with others. They promote the inner development, growth, and maturity of our self, leading us into the accumulation of living-wisdom that is essential to guide new generations. Open, confident, and socially competent individuals are the essential elements of social leadership, to lead others into actions that sustain families, communities, and societies in peace.

What is remarkable about these self-sustaining Value-Emotions is that while they are subjective in nature, in reality they can be objectively measured when we observe the subordinate Value-Emotions they generate: acceptance, appreciation, recognition, validation, respect, loyalty, faithfulness, trust, authenticity, vulnerability, genuineness, self-identity and identity of others, and many more. They evoke acts of social integration rather than social separation. These Value-Emotions provide the social lubricant that is essential for the smooth functioning of families, communities and societies, and their sustainability into the future.

Empathy, compassion, and “Love” support the development of a higher quality of life for our self and with others by providing the motivating energy to grow into a more complete, mature, and functional individual within our self and within our social environment. They allow us to see the common good as societal rather than selfishly personal. Their expression demonstrates the highest ennobling qualities of human nature at its best, giving example to others that encourages our own intra- and inter-personal growth. With these three Value-Emotions, we now have the direction and motivation from which to develop highly positive family dynamics before the arrival of children; and a loving, compassionate, and empathic means of validating holistic growth in individuals, families and societies.

When you see evidence of these Value-Emotions in action, you are seeing evidence of the development of self-sustaining families and communities. The positive interpretations of the four values of social sustainability then become constructive to the social and emotional sustainability of individuals, families, communities, and societies. When we internalize these values and Value-Emotions, we realize that the collective power of individuals affects individuals everywhere, as much as the individual affects the collective whole.

Seven spheres of human existence —
defining the holism of human growth and development

The holism of human development is encompassed in seven spheres:
Physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, social, cultural, and spiritual. “Spiritual” conveys the gestalt or synergism of these seven spheres of human development throughout the lifespan of a citizen.
These seven spheres provide us with the specific criteria to measure WHAT each of the seven values of social sustainability must address to unleash the innate potential of citizens, individually and collectively. If we were to design a training program to teach Local Community Social Sustainability Design and Validation Teams HOW to improve the quality of life of citizens in their local community, the team would need to know WHAT spheres of human existence must be addressed in order to create a socially sustainable design.


Physical. What are the minimum quality of life standards to assure for the physical development of infants in utero, infants, children through the final development of their brain at approximately age 25; and for adults into their elder years?

Physical. What are the minimum quality of life standards for a home (for a single person, couple, family)? This criterion is “culturally specific” as different cultures have differing minimal standards of a “home.”

Examination of the quality of life would continue to identify the minimal quality of life standards for the mental, emotional, intellectual, social, cultural, and spiritual spheres of human development.


The examination of the seven spheres would continue with the minimal standards for growth of the individual during the course of their lifetime.


The examination of the seven spheres would continue with the minimal standards for equality of the individual during the course of their lifetime.

The VALUE-EMOTIONS (empathy, compassion, and “Love”) provide the internal (heart centered) qualifying criteria necessary to provide humane definitions to the minimum standards of the quality of life, growth, and equality for their culture.

Yes, this may seem tedious, but the definitions that are developed will rarely need to be updated when the culture of their community or nation changes with the times.

♦ ♦​ ♦​

“The bridge between the socially sustainable family and a socially sustainable society is the socialized child-becoming-adult. The values that produce such a child — Empathy, Compassion, and “Love” — become manifest in the adult and society as they pursue an improving Quality of Life, Growth, and Equality.”

4 - See the link 
5 - Raphael, Daniel. 2015, Social Sustainability HANDBOOK for Community-Builders. p. 28-30.